Queen diagonal? No. Too risky. He might take my horse. Pawn two spaces up then? Pawn. Pah-pawn. I feel like a pawn. A player in someone else's game. I look at Greg, and through him, I see another event happening right in front of me. Not in front of my eyes, but in my mind. The picture is so clear that the world I see feels as real as the supposedly main-reality I'm playing chess in right now, and it certainly influences my emotions as much as the things happening in the 'real world'.
A man walks through the image of Greg, and shouts at me. It's a fight I've been playing on repeat for months. I don't want to be here. The man disappears, and behind Greg, a tree appears. Suddenly him and I are sitting on a green hill. It's a beautiful sunny day, with a few clouds and birds, making for a delicious looking stracciatella sky. A great day to play chess outside.
Greg picks up a piece on the chessboard, and moves it.
"I think it was my turn," I say.
Greg looks me over. "You just played. It's my turn."
"Eh.. I don't think so. Look,", I point at his last move. "You did that. Now it's my turn."
"It really isn't, it's my turn," Greg says.
I'm confused. Where was I just now? Did I already play, and do I now look like a person who forgets things, and who's own truth isn't reliable? Maybe the medication has been affecting my short-term memory. I start to doubt myself and feel ashamed.
"I really thought it was my turn, I'm sorry," I say.
Greg makes his move, and leans back. He stares at me. I stare back.
"Don't do that," he says.
"What?" I ask.
"That," he says forcefully, but in a polite way. "It was your turn."
"What the fuck," I reply. Did he just play me and did I miss it?
"You're too trusting," Greg says. "You allowed me to manipulate you. It was your turn, but I convinced you otherwise. I hope you're not upset I did that?"
"No, not at all.. That was good!" I say. "I completely missed it. Thanks for telling me."
Greg has a cluster B personality disorder called Borderline. It's also known as emotionally unstable personality disorder. Borderlines can feel very heavy, unstable emotions; one day life is rainbows and sunshine, but the next morning, everything around them can be a hurricane. Throughout the last few months, I've gotten to know three of those self-destructive winds Greg sometimes catches in his sails, and it was quite something to behold. During it you can't reach him; it almost seems like you're communicating with a completely different person. His tone of voice changes, all his facial expressions seem foreign to his personality, and he loses control and feels hopeless due to it. Because the emotions I've seen him go through during such a phase are so bold, and because I understood where they were coming from, it didn't scare me much. Greg finds his own emotions very difficult to interpret and deal with, and loses touch with reason when he's experiencing heavy feelings. His inability to stay calm and communicate properly during it reminds me of my own son. I've been raising my autistic child for almost 7 years now. My son is barely verbal. Because children can easily shift between heavy emotions, and I know how difficult it is for my son to communicate because of his struggle with speech, it makes it easier for me to understand Greg and stay patient when it happens. I always imaged borderlines to be incredibly difficult people, but Greg isn't very difficult. His heavy emotions make a lot of sense to me, and they are much easier to pick up on, and read.
Because Greg is also diagnosed with some anti-social tendencies (which came as a surprise to me, because he's a very loyal friend, with good morals), he's been teaching me how people manipulate. He likes to play games from time to time. Nothing illegal or anything that harms people; I rather see his playful spirit as innocent boy-pranks. Because Greg is good at manipulation, we made a deal in December. Greg is allowed to at times manipulate, lie or play me in an innocent way. When he does and I find out, he has to admit he did it. If I don't find out, he has to confess later he did something mischievous. Why we are doing this? Because I want to learn how to protect myself from liars and manipulators, and through this deal, Greg can do something he enjoys doing and has an urge for at times. He likes to find out if he can get away with things. What's better than to learn the game of manipulation through someone with a cluster B personality disorder?
It might sound weird, but the games he plays, have made Greg a more honest person towards me. I've gotten to know him quite well these last 6 months. Although really, these days, I'm afraid to believe this statement myself, because I've been proven wrong before when it comes to knowing people. Greg just convinced me it was his turn, so yes, I'm still manipulatable. Ever since I received my autism diagnosis (Asperger's), I've been taking a hard look at myself, and the things inside my personality, that have been proving to cause trouble. What are my weak parts? According to Greg, I'm too trusting of people I have an emotional connection with. According to the psychologist who diagnosed me, I'm too open, and through this, malicious people can easily find my soft spots, and deceive and manipulate me. Greg has been warning and educating me about this. He enjoys seeing me grow and learn, due to his role as a teacher.
"Just remember," he says. "I'm a well-known cheat when it comes to board-games."
He smiles, and we continue the game.
Eventually, I win.
"Even though you tried manipulating me!" I tease. Greg likes to win, but he's a good sport about it when he doesn't.
"Yes, but you know what I find interesting?" he asks.
His eyes are blinking in the dim lights of the cafe. Just before it were the eyes of a man. Now, the eyes of a boy are staring back at me. His cheeky smile tells me he's done it again.
"That you didn't miss this tower for a second, during the rest of the game," he says.
In his hands, he's holding my black tower. He puts it on the table in front of me.
"When did you take this?" I ask.
"When I leaned closer to talk to you earlier."
"Fuck," I say. "You cheated twice?" Even while he warned me, he still fooled me.
I feel dumb. I think about the chess pieces, and my own role as a pawn. The man from my daydreams and nightmares took away my power also, and I failed to notice. Greg just took my tower, and still, I didn't notice. I did win the game however; but I had good pieces left to work with. What if you are but a pawn? Can a pawn set a king check-mate?
Greg called my ex-boyfriend a manipulative bluffing idiot, and initially didn't understand why I stayed with him for so long, when he read and heard and saw how my ex treated me. He pointed out patterns of emotional abuse and manipulation in the ways my ex communicated with me; things I didn't see before. Greg showed me my role as a pawn in the sick real-life chess game I was forced into playing, and am still forced to play, against my will. It has made me wonder if maybe it's a better idea for pawns to just run away and disappear, when they find out what their true role is. What's the use of playing, if the odds are that you're sacrificed for your army's needs? And for what? To have an army rule over a king, who manipulates all the pieces around him, to fight his battle for him? Should a pawn risk everything for that? It all sounds so silly to me.
While Greg has been teaching me manipulation, I have been teaching him about emotions, and the result actions can have on your mind and life. He now understands what happened to me, and being the man he is, has been trying to mend that which is fixable in his opinion: my unsuspicious nature, and the unstable walls around me, which he can easily poke through.
If only people would be able to recognise manipulation better, and could be taught about it in high-school, like Greg is teaching me now, life would be so much easier. I wish I was taught about it sooner so I could've protected myself. I know reality is subjective, and that people can influence your own subjective reality even. I've learned that proving what's actually going on, is quite difficult. Not just to other people; but to yourself also. What if someone else's reality is a fantasy though? And what if those who need to believe in said fantasy, to avoid confrontation with reality, can make others believe their delusional subjective truths? How do you fight a king and his puppets, who pervert everyone around them, to play along in their twisted theatre production?
Being gullible might be one of my weaker personality traits, but I am a good autodidact (self-learner), however. I can easily teach myself new things, and am great with finding patterns and linking topics, when I know what to look for. When someone tells me what to look for. Greg has been lighting his candle on the hidden world of manipulative people. Through him, and the autistic documentation I've been collecting, I'm finally getting to the point where I've wanted to be since October: to be able to see the chess-king for what he really is. An oppressor, who is just an ordinary piece of wood. He's no longer growing; for the tree he was made out of, has died. His branches will blossom no more, and even though many will still praise the king, to me, he's disconnected from growth. The king is dead.
I am, however, very much alive still. Because I decided I'm not a pawn, after all.
Written with permission of Greg (not his real name).
Inside the System: A blog series about mental health, being hospitalised, and pretty much everything I've experienced these last 6 months. From naked patients crawling through the hallway, to having your medication dose raised 4 times in 6 weeks due to your ex boyfriend threatening you. From being publicly shamed online for speaking out and being called a liar, to what actually happened, and how and when I will press charges against my ex. So, a lot of mental vomit will be thrown on my blog upcoming weeks.